Alex Villanueva defends his fiscal transparency before the partial freezing of his budget by the Board of Supervisors

The County Board of Supervisors approved the partial freezing of new hires in the Sheriff Department, as a result of a $ 63 million deficit, and Sheriff Alex Villanueva replies that, first, public safety should be the number one priority One of all levels of government.

Under California law, Los Angeles County must produce a balanced budget, said Supervisor Hilda Solís, author of the motion along with her counterpart Sheila Kuehl.

Arlene Barrera, Acting Auditor-Comptroller recently reported that the Sheriff's Department has an unprecedented deficit of $ 63.4 million, exponentially higher than at any other time in the last five years.

In response, the Board of Supervisors voted to approve a motion ordering the county executive director, Sachi Hamai to work with the Sheriff's Department, the Acting Auditor-Comptroller and the Board of Supervisors to develop a mitigation plan for budget deficit and implement a freeze of the hiringones, excluding critical health and public safety positions.

"If the Sheriff's Department had provided a plan to address its deficit in January when it was first reported, it could have avoided this exponentially worse deficit, which is 474% larger than the previous year, ”said Solis. "However, despite repeated requests from the County CEO for the Sheriff's Department to send a mitigation plan, none were ever provided."

Solis added that Villanueva it persisted and the deficit increased at the time the books were closed at the end of the fiscal year.

"This budget deficit is the largest I have seen in an department since I swore as Supervisor, ”said“ By taking this measure [partial freezing of contracts] this Board of Supervisors fulfills the constitutional responsibility of being prudent with the funds of taxpayers at the time which guarantees that the health and public safety services of Los Angeles County continue to be delivered. ”

From surplus of millions to structural deficit

The general budget surplus and deficit of the Sheriff's Department were: surplus of$15.7 million in fiscal year 2014-2015; surplus of $9 million in fiscal year 2015-2016; surplus of $ 124,400 in fiscal year 2016-2017 and deficit of $19.5 million in fiscal year 2017-2018 when Sheriff Jim McDonnell was, according to County data.

The deficit grew to $90.2 million in 2018-2019, but the county executive director, Sachi Hamai reduced it to 63.4 million, due to the discount of $16 million associated with the expenses of the Wolsey fire and $10.8 million invested in litigation costs.

"First, public safety is the reason why the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department exists, and [that] should be the number one priority of all levels of government, ”was Sheriff Alex Villanueva's reaction to the motion approved by the Board of Supervisors.

The Sheriff noted that the LASD represents the law enforcement agency with the least staff in the country, with 816 vacancies of sworn officers and a proportion of less than one agent per 1,000 residents, which represents 2.5 times less than the national average It is 2.5 agents for the same number of inhabitants.

"We inherited a budget deficit of $ 47 million from my predecessor, which, together with the structural deficits in the financing of the courts of first instance, sworn vacancies, medical care of retirees and unfinanced mandates, also leaves us severely without funds ”, Defended Villanueva.

"As Sheriff, I will do my part to ensure that we continue to provide critical public safety services while we seek to control these structural deficits, ”he added.

Villanueva added that he will ask the Board to finance the real cost of providing the critical services that its agents provide in patrols, investigation, security or custody throughout Los Angeles County.

"Our [fiscal] operations are an open book, and if someone can identify what can be improved, we are open to constructive criticism and a collaborative effort to provide public safety services in a cost-effective and effective manner, ”he said. "This motion may not be the most appropriate way to do the hard work of identifying what activities should be funded and at what levels, so we may all need to re-establish our efforts."

Therefore, it launched the challenge for the Board of Supervisors to finance the cost of providing public security, which is approximately $3,900 million dollars annually. The current budget of the LASD is $3,600 million.

Much of the LASD deficit is due to overtime used to fill hundreds of vacancies in the department, something that has been dragging in for years, especially in the security of 40 courts in the county.

However, the county executive director, Sachi Hamai, has assured that the number of vacancies decreased to 477 in December 2018.

The supervisors' action also placed $ 143.7 million from the Sheriff's budget into a special provisional budget that will be made available to the department as needed after the implementation of the current deficit mitigation plan.


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